"Running amok" is a Malay term (from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines) referring to a person suddenly going berserk and killing everyone about. While the typical perpetrator in Malaysia uses a large knife (kris) or machete (parang), the syndrome can be applied to someone who picks up a weapon and randomly attacks anyone within reach (Turner).


Predisposing conditions in the amoker (amok runner):

(1) severe depression or anxiety, with some persons reportedly wanting to commit suicide but finding themselves unable to do so

(2) psychosis with or without paranoia

(3) drug-induced frenzy

(4) infection, including neurosyphilis


A person with a strong affinity for weapons and a tendency to act out may be more prone to the behavior (Adler et al, 1994).


Classic stages (Schmidt et al, 1977):

(1) prodrome: brooding, obsessive rumination, irritability, withdrawal, aggressive responses to others

(2) homicidal frenzy, with uncontrollable aggression towards others without reason

(3) behavior continues until forced to stop by physical restraint, death at the hands of bystanders or physical collapse from exhaustion

(4) if not killed, partial or complete amnesia afterwards


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